What Was Missing In Yesterday's POTUS Speech on ED Reform

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Excerpts below from President Obama's speech on education reform at the National Urban League Centennial Conference.  Full text here.  White House blog entry here.   Video at the bottom.  

Two interesting things not in the speech. First, no call for Congress to reauthorize ESEA. This is why most of our Insiders in our recent Education Insider report said they were pessimistic about ESEA being reauthorized anytime soon (a surprising 43% said it wouldn't be until after 2012).  It's also why 75% of our Insiders said the President has to be more engaged in reauthorization.

Second, there was only a vague reference to the $10 billion EduJobs bill.  A bit surprising because in May, Secretary Duncan said, "we need emergency action and we need it now"  and the Hill has been complaining about the Administration sending mixed messages about its budget priorities.  Given that, and that the beginning of school is only a few weeks away, I had expected a more forceful call for Congress to quickly act.  

 

Word Cloud POTUS SpeechExcerpts:

But education is an economic issue -- if not “the” economic issue of our time.  (Applause.) It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college.  (Applause.)  It’s an economic issue when eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade.  It’s an economic issue when countries that out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow. ...

Now, because a higher education has never been more important –- or more expensive -– it’s absolutely essential that we put a college degree within reach for anyone who wants it.  And that’s why we’re making higher education more affordable, so we can meet the goals I’ve set of producing a higher share of college graduates than any other nation by 2020.  I want us to be back at number one instead of number 12.  (Applause.) ...

And in pursuit of that goal, we eliminated taxpayer subsidies to big banks.  We saved tens of billions of dollars, and we used those savings to open the door to additional financial aid -- to open the door for college to millions more students.  This is something that a lot of you may not be aware of, but we have added tens of billions of dollars that were going to bank middlemen, so that that money is now going to students -- millions more students who are getting scholarships to go to college.  (Applause.)  That’s already been done. ...

But I think the single most important thing we’ve done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top.  (Applause.) ...

And so far, the results have been promising and they have been powerful.  In an effort to compete for this extra money, 32 states reformed their education laws before we even spent a dime. The competition leveraged change at the state level.  And because the standards we set were high, only a couple of states actually won the grant in the first round, which meant that the states that didn’t get the money, they’ve now strengthened their applications, made additional reforms. Now 36 have applied in the second round, and 18 states plus the District of Columbia are in the running to get a second grant.  (Applause.)  ...

So understand what’s happened.  In each successive round, we’ve leveraged change across the country.  And even students in those districts that haven’t gotten a grant, they’ve still benefited from the reforms that were initiated.  And this process has sown the seeds of achievement.  It’s forced teachers and principals and officials and parents to forge agreements on tough, and often uncomfortable issues -- to raise their sights and embrace education. ...

So I am 110 percent behind our teachers.  (Applause.)  But all I’m asking in return -- as a President, as a parent, and as a citizen -- is some measure of accountability.  (Applause.)  So even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we’ve got to make sure we’re seeing results in the classroom.  If we’re not seeing results in the classroom, then let’s work with teachers to help them become more effective.  If that doesn’t work, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom.  (Applause.) ...

And that’s why we’re challenging states to turn around our 5,000 lowest performing schools.  And I don’t think it’s any secret that most of those are serving African American or Hispanic kids.  We’re investing over $4 billion to help them do that, to transform those schools -– $4 billion, which even in Washington is real money.  (Applause.)  This isn’t about -- unlike No Child Left Behind, this isn’t about labeling a troubled school a failure and then just throwing up your hands and saying, well, we’re giving up on you.  It’s about investing in that school’s future, and recruiting the whole community to help turn it around, and identifying viable options for how to move forward.

And I know there are a number of other steps we need to take to lift up our education system -- like saving teachers’ jobs across this country from layoffs -- and I’ll continue fighting to take those steps and save those jobs.  But I’ll also continue to fight for Race to the Top with everything I’ve got, including using a veto to prevent some folks from watering it down.  (Applause.)

 

 

 

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